Sunday, July 01, 2018

Communion: Does Everyone Get to Go?

The Virgin Mary adoring the Eucharist (WSJ)
The Catholic Church has been roiled by an issue that most Protestants had resolved:
Should Catholics be allowed to share Communion, one of their church’s most sacred rites, with their Protestant spouses?
(Obviously from the Protestant perspective the above designations are flipped.)

There are two principal views of the Eucharist: the banquet ("a welcoming meal, often linking it with Gospel accounts of Jesus’ willingness to eat with outcasts and sinners") versus a sacrament for believers ("the traditional requirement of moral worthiness to receive Communion"). Some conservative Catholics want to screen out those who, for example, advocate abortion or remarriage after divorce, both of which are legal but contrary to official teaching.

The Episcopal Church opted for inclusion decades ago ("All baptized Christians are most welcome to receive Communion with us."), but before Episcopalians go all high-and-mighty over the retrograde Catholics, we have to ask ourselves, are there any circumstances under which we would refuse Communion to anyone? The Episcopal Church defines Excommunication as [bold added]
The disciplinary exclusion of a person from receiving communion by competent religious authority. It represents exclusion from the corporate life of the church. Excommunication was intended to encourage repentance and not meant to be a punishment. The Prayer Book Disciplinary Rubrics for the Holy Eucharist provide that if the priest "knows that a person who is living a notoriously evil life intends to come to Communion," the priest shall tell the person not to come to communion until the person "has given clear proof of repentance and amendment of life."
The key word here is "repentance," and most branches of Christianity would agree: the wayward person would be welcomed back if he or she repents of the "sin" and promises (tries?) not to commit the sin again, whatever it may be. So, my sympathies are with the Catholic Church as it struggles with the lines that its members may not cross; everyone has lines, though they may not want to admit it.

Note: the pre-1970 Episcopal Church would not allow me, who was baptized at one, to take Communion until I was confirmed at the age of 12. Also, tardy worshippers were not to supposed to take Communion if they arrived after the confession--yes, it's all about repentance--midway through the service.

Here's the 1928 General Confession, which I once committed to memory and is rarely used any more (I do like the cadences of the old-timey language):
ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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